Apollo 13 a space drama, Directed and produced by Ron Howard and was made in 1995. It was made to look as realistic as possible without it being a documentary; no original footage from the launch was used, apart from a few embedded images like in the news on TV. Howard used many different techniques to achieve realism: editing, camera angles, special effects and historic words phases and speeches, but before he even started filming he had a good idea of the astronauts backgrounds, the flight plan and the exact events that happened on the mission.
He spent a long time with the astronaut Jim Lovel researching the events. Very near the start of the film there is a scene with Gene drinking tea and smoking, this is realistic because it shows a regular man with normal qualities, the stress of the job is getting to him and the tension comes through to the audience. You can tell Howard is trying to keep his characters very normal. Following this is the control room scene where Howard shows different members of the crew and goes through them in turn giving close ups of them.
Using a close up shot of the crew members brings forward the fact that they are working hard and again the tension of the launch comes across very strong. The launch was a very realistic part of the film and Howard put a lot of work into it. With the combination of special effects and different camera angles, the shuttle and the surrounding look incredibly real. He starts off with a low angle shot of the shuttle and pans all the way to the top; the special effects come in when it ignites, and the flames from the bottom of the shuttle.
As the shuttle starts to shake, the camera moves to a crane shot right on the tip of the shuttle and as the rocket breaks away from the supports the camera spirals down the shuttle just missing the broken parts, this seems very realistic and the dizziness of the spiraling could be recreating what the astronauts are feeling. Throughout the film there is a focus on heroism and patriotism, this is shown at the launch where there is a long shot of about 80 people sitting on a small stadium.
There is a highflying American flag above them and the music of dead American military heroes playing. For a lot of American people watching that were around at the time of the original launch, this could be like it was all happening again. The camera then switches to a close-up of the two wives, and their different feelings, one is crying for joy and the other is looking up at the shuttle in amazement. This scene seems very realistic as you could imagine this happening at the real launch, it gives us different points of view from the two different individuals.
When the oxygen tank explodes 56 hours after takeoff Howard must use special effects to recreate the explosion, as he cannot film from in space outside of a shuttle, and would have been incredibly difficult to recreate it using the KC135. In this scene and during the film Howard tries to keep it as realistic as possible by using exact phrases from within the film “Houston, we have a problem” is a very famous one, and by recreating the astronauts exact moves and plans from the original mission. Howard doesn’t always use real-time like in the final scene on the countdown to when the shuttle should renter the atmosphere.
There is a 4-minute countdown and the first 4 minutes are actually 2, but the last minute is in real-time. I think this is a good idea as at this moment – the climate of the film, the audience are waiting for what’s going to happen, there is a lot of tension, and leaving this tension for a whole 4 minutes, it would slowly drift away and the audience would lose interest. One technique used was weightlessness, in many of the scenes Howard needed to have the feel of weightlessness and he was lucky that NASA let him use their aeroplane KC135.
This is a normal plane but not like a passenger aircraft, it has no seats and the insides are built to look like that of a shuttle. This plane was taken to huge altitudes and dropped to give the feeling of weightlessness; real astronauts used this in their training. Howard had to get 3 men and a camera crew onto the plane, and film good quality realistic scenes. I feel that this is a major part in the making of he film and the film couldn’t be made well without it.